Well, sort-of. A local JET Programme publication produced by JETs in Shizuoka prefecture called the Shizuoka Chronicle just published one of my pieces for their 25th anniversary edition. I also served on the editorial committee for the newspaper and it was a lot of fun! At first, I was not asked to contribute a written piece but at the last minute one of our contributors pulled out and they asked me to fill in for them. The newspaper is only produced once a year but it is sent to schools all over Shizuoka Prefecture and new incomming Shizuoka JETs receive a copy in their welcome packs before they even come to Japan (so it is sent all over the world!). It's still pretty exciting for me as this is the first time some of my work has been published on this scale. I have decided to share the contents of my article for the Shizuoka Chronicle with you. Find out what I wrote about after the jump...
The Real Ramen Girl
By Sarah Oakey
The Ramen Girl (2008) was one of Brittany Murphy’s final films before her untimely death in 2009, in which her character is shown inexplicable kindness from a Japanese couple who run a ramen shop. To find such exchanges of human kindness between strangers is rare these days, but perhaps we have managed to find it here on the Izu Peninsula.
Upon entering Chukatei, the homely little ramen shop on route 136 between Nirayama and Izunagaoka, one is usually greeted with “Irashaimasse!” (“Welcome!”), before the owners' eyes light with recognition. “Ah! Sarah-san!” they say before inquiring as to my health, my day and my family. This weekly tradition of meeting at Chukatei for ‘ramen night’ has become time-honoured amongst Izu ALTs. The relaxed atmosphere invites us to come and go without obligation, to catch-up with friends over a steaming bowl of - dare I say it - the best ramen in Japan.
Menus are Japanese-only but recommendations are made readily, for everything is delicious. The familiar sketch of a ramen bowl with the words ‘You are soup-er!’ flaps welcomingly from the refrigerator; a typical place for a parent to pin artwork. Everyone waits until the Yamadas - or Mama and Papa-san, as they like to be known - finish their work, when the ALTs are permitted to remain after-hours to chat. Papa-san usually lights a cigarette; “Sarah-san, how is your mother?” he asks.
Living on the Izu Peninsula affords a variety of experiences. An onsen area, the Izu was once a booming tourist destination for Tokyo’s upper-classes but has experienced decline in recent years. While there are still plenty of fantastic hiking courses, markets and friendly faces, daily life can be quiet, but Chukatei and its home-cooked meals are a warm welcome for ALTs new and old. As my friendship with the Yamadas grew, they were kind enough to invite me to their country home for dinner, an experience that still ranks high as a favourite moment in Japan. Having the Yamadas with me while adjusting to life in Japan is like having another set of parents away from home and now, when I call home, my mother always asks after their health, too.
I had a lot of fun writing for the Shizuoka Chronicle. Thank you to the editorial team for allowing me this oportunity!
Do you have a favourite ramen restaurant?